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The Witness "Long Screenshot" trailer emphasises music-free sound design

The Witness doesn't have an orchestral background score, something we usually consider essential to atmospheric adventures. Why not?


The Witness lead creative Jonathan Blow is most famous for Braid, which has a memorable musical soundtrack. It may surprise fans of the platformer to learn that Blow's second major project does not make use of a constant musical score.

"There is (almost) no music in the game. This is not an arbitrary decision, but is in fact very important to the coherence of the thing we are making," Blow wrote in a new developer blog post.

"The Witness is a game about being perceptive: noticing subtleties in the puzzles you find, noticing details in the world around you. If we slather on a layer of music that is just arbitrarily playing, and not really coming from the world, then we’re adding a layer of stuff that works against the game. It’d be like a layer of insulation that you have to hear through in order to be more present in the world."

Blow said the team at Thekla Inc. has instead focused on the game's ambient sound, which is harder than it would be in most settings - the island on which The Witness is set has no animals or birds, or even insects.

"In this game you are really alone, and it has forced us to be very creative with the audio in order to ensure things have depth and texture to them," Blow said.

"This work is being done by Wabi Sabi Sound, who did the sound for the very atmospheric Dead Space series, and more recently some smaller, artier games like Ori and the Blind Forest."

The minimalist trailer below is designed to give you an idea of what the soundscape is like.

Watch on YouTube

Elsewhere in the blog post, Blow said the team is about to start recording voiceovers. They'll be English-only, but there will be subtitles in at least English, Italian, French, German, Spanish (Spain), Spanish (Latin America), Portuguese (Portugal), Portuguese (Brazil), Arabic, Russian, Chinese (Simplified), Chinese (Traditional), Japanese, Korean, Polish and Indonesian.

"We may add more languages later but man this stuff is expensive, so there is a limit to how many languages we can do at once," Blow said.

The Witness is expected on PC and PS4 on January 26, with mobile release to follow.

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